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DIY Says RIP to Repair Industry
By Jody Rathgeb
My liberal arts education has served me well. It’s true that I’ve never been paid to scan a poem or diagram a sentence, but a writer needs the broad range of knowledge, the critical skills and the ability to recognize what isn’t known (and how to remedy the gap) that all those supposedly irrelevant courses in philosophy, literature and folklore give you.
But at school, I never learned how to fix a toilet, make a lawn mower stop that funny noise or replace a window screen.
Apparently, though, neither did my fellow students who majored in chemistry, engineering or math. Let’s face it, college and grad school don’t tell you how to actually DO anything.
The result of that is changing, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal published in April. “Pity the Maytag Repairman” chronicles how increasing numbers of people are taking on the task of doing their own repair work. As the subhead states, “Consumers fixing appliances themselves contribute to slowdown in spending on services.”
Not only are folks repairing the dryer and refrigerator, says the article, they are “lengthening the time between haircuts, shunning movie theaters for in-home entertainment and taking over tasks once left to professionals.”
This being the business-centric WSJ, the trend is cause for alarm because it “dings the appliance-repair industry,” although it saves money for consumers and gives them a sense of empowerment.
OK, WSJ, so which is it? Are we showing our all-American can-do spirit by being frugal and demonstrating rugged individualism, or are we un-American for taking valuable dollars away from the repair and service industries?
This article might not have caught my eye if I hadn’t been forced into the do-it-yourself culture by my years living on North Caicos Island. After my husband and I built a house there, we quickly learned that the island lacked the maintenance network that we as spoiled Americans had come to expect. A plumbing problem? There’s one guy to call, and he spends about half his time on another island. A flat tire? Go see Frank the Haitian, and he might have a replacement.
I immediately started recording the contact info of these guys, including “private” cell phones and the numbers of their mothers, wives and girlfriends … but I also started hanging around while the repairs were made. I paid more attention to how the house was built and where it might be weak. The hammer, the screwdriver and the can of WD-40 became my friends. In fact, I kept a “bouquet” of tools on my coffee table.
One of my finest moments was when the water suddenly died during my husband’s shower while he was all soaped up. With my screwdriver, Raid and WD-40, I fixed the pump. His reaction to my first published novel didn’t match the admiration in his eyes that day.
I’m still a bit of a klutz when it comes to all this maintenance and repair stuff. I know I hammer like a girl (can’t help it, the hand just slides up to choke it). And since our stateside residence is an apartment, it’s deliciously lazy to put in a service request instead of pulling out the tools. But I understand where these people cited in WSJ are coming from. If you can, do it yourself. Call in the big (and expensive) guys only when necessary.
And the service/repair industry that so worries the business media? Maybe it’s time to branch out. Hey, guys, look at the things we don’t want to do, which maybe we’ll pay for. Poop-scooping for pets? Window-washing? Or maybe reducing those $100-plus service calls for just walking in the door?
Nope, I have no tears for the Maytag repairman.
#Real #DIY #FixerUppers #Repairs
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